(Photo submitted by Victoria Distillers)

Two local businesses are teaming up to offer free hand sanitizers to frontline workers on Vancouver Island who are facing a shortage of supply during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Last week, after observing clear shortages of cleaning supplies like hand sanitizer, the president of Victoria Distillers, Peter Hunt, pitched the idea to Sasha Prior, co-owner of Nezza Naturals, to offer free supplies to essential workers.

Both companies immediately began working on a game plan.

According to Victoria Distillers’ Marketing Director, Jessalyn Pechie, the distillery has been using alcohol byproduct to create their hand sanitizer sprays.

Since announcing their intention to offer these sprays for free, the company has received multiple requests from people across Vancouver Island and B.C.

The hand sanitizers are currently being offered to nurses, care homes, clinics, shelters, food banks, and grocery store workers. Pechie says the company has also had banks, RCMP, firefighters, paramedics, and even medical equipment repairmen reach out to request the product.


See all the latest updates about the global COVID-19 pandemic on Vancouver Island


“We’re hoping that it provides even a little bit of relief for people who have to continue working during this time,” she said in a phone call with Victoria Buzz.

The hand sanitizers are made out of alcohol byproduct which is removed during the distillation process when producing Empress 1908 gin.

Although Victoria Distillers have shut down their cocktail lounge and tasting room in compliance with the provincial health order, they continue to produce Empress 1908 gin in their production facility.

According to Pechie, the company is left with around 40 L of alcohol after each distillation, which is enough to make 840 60mL bottles of hand sanitizer spray.

They then combine this alcohol with distilled water, vegetable glycerin and sweet orange essential oil in a recipe created by Nezza Naturals. The resulting hand sanitizer has 70% alcohol which is the recommended concentration.

At this time Victoria Distillers is taking a list of anyone in essential services who requests their hand sanitizers and working on figuring out pick up and delivery options.

Their main limiting factor now is the availability of the small spray bottles in which to contain the hand sanitizer.

“We have enough to make 5,000 bottles at the moment and are working on finding other suppliers that have the availability for us to place an order with them. Our current supplier has run out of stock,” says Pechie.

While the company is receiving requests to ship their hand sanitizer all across B.C., they will first be focusing on supplying workers in Victoria and on Vancouver Island.

“We understand that this isn’t going away overnight and plan to keep this going for as long as we can, as long as the need is there. We hope to expand this service off the island in the future,” adds Pechie.

Those who wish to request delivery or pickup of the hand sanitizer spray when it is ready can email Victoria Distillers at sales@empressgin.com.

Stay in the loop! Get Victoria Buzz news, events and more directly to your inbox. Every day.